Paul O. Moratz had a passion for building and design that started at a young age. For 34 years Moratz designed concert halls, schools, libraries, hospitals, mansions for elites, and modest homes for middle and working class families, built. He and his parents were German immigrants who sought a new life in the promising and booming community of Bloomington, moving here in 1869. His father, a carpenter and contractor, passed on his wealth of knowledge to Moratz, his eldest child. This inspired a passion in him to learn more and pursue a career in architecture and building of his own. While many of Moratz’s buildings have fallen to the wrecking ball over the years since his death, many others have stood the test of time, leaving people wondering “what a beautiful building—I wonder who built it;” which was one of his dreams.

Paul Moratz was born on April 14, 1866 in Granwitz, Posen, Germany. He was the oldest of seven children born to Herman and Emelie (Eisner) Moratz. Herman was a carpenter and builder by trade. He began learning these skills from his own father by working in his building business. Herman was then called into the military and served during the Austro-Prussian War (also known as the Seven Weeks War), during the summer of 1866. Herman served as a non-commissioned officer in the Pionier Corps. The Pionier (or Pioneer), Corps were soldiers who were tasked to perform engineering and construction tasks. Additionally, Paul recalled later in life that his father was a graduate of one of the technical schools in Germany where he learned additional skills in carpentry and architectural drawing.

Herman, like so many during this time period, left his homeland in search of new opportunities for himself and his family. In 1867, Herman immigrated to the United States, traveling the southern states at first. The next year, Herman moved to Bloomington. At the time, Bloomington was experiencing a boom due to the expansion of the Chicago and Alton Railroad Shops. A year later, Herman sent for his wife and their two year old son Paul, to join him in Bloomington, which became the family’s permanent home.

As Moratz was growing up, he split his time between attending the German and English school and assisting in his father’s carpenter shop. Herman had opened the shop in a shed behind the family’s home, located at 1106 South Main Street in the predominately German neighborhood, South Hill. Herman employed between six and ten men, who primarily engaged in wood turning, creating window frames, and other elements used in the construction of houses. Herman continued to operate the shop out of the shed behind the family’s home until 1884 when he opened a separate shop across the street on the southwest corner of Main and Miller streets (later listed at 1103 South Main Street).

As Moratz worked in his father’s shop, he learned the necessary skills to become a carpenter, and his father also taught him architectural drawing. Moratz recalled that he was “anxious to get all the knowledge I could concerning the planning and designing of buildings.” However, Moratz felt that since his father was taught building construction in Germany, he would need to further his education by learning how architecture, design, and construction were done in the United States if he was going to continue in his chosen profession. Moratz recalled that when he was around 19 years old (in about 1886), he “made inquiries among our leading educators who informed me that over in Urbana was the ‘Illinois Industrial School’ (today University of Illinois) and thought that they had a department in building construction and that it was sort of a Manual Training School in which several trades were taught.” Moratz told his parents his wish to attend the Industrial School, and with their permission, he “immediately made a chest using one-half for a set of carpenter tools and the other half for clothing, etc. and left for Urbana.”

Moratz stated later in life that he asked his parents for very little assistance while attending school. He said that in those days it was “quite frequent that students worked their own way through college.” To pay his own way, Moratz did many small carpentry jobs for people that he knew. And on several occasions, he bartered the work that he performed for services that he needed. In one instance, he repaired the entrance door and made an alteration to a shaving mug case for the owner of a barbershop he patronized on Neil Street in Urbana. Moratz recalled that one morning he entered the shop “giving the door the usual kick.” He asked the owner if he could make the necessary repairs to the door so that customers “would not have to use any special exertion when entering the shop” in exchange for a haircut. The owner told Moratz that the door had been in that state of disrepair since he had been in the shop. As the owner began to cut Moratz’s hair, he told Moratz the price of a haircut was only 25 cents and that one of the leading contractors in town had told him that it would take $25 to put the door in proper working order. Moratz told the owner not to worry and to proceed with the haircut. After he was finished, Moratz went to a nearby hardware store and returned with a few screws. He then asked the barber for a screw driver and proceeded to replace the screws in the top hinge of the door that had pulled out of the door frame, leaving the door to sag. The screws Moratz replaced the existing ones with were much heavier than the original ones, and in a few minutes time, Moratz had put the door in perfect working order, saving the barber the $25 (which in 2015 would be $625). The barber was astonished and exclaimed “I cannot understand why the contractor wanted more than twenty-five dollars when you have put the door in nice working condition for less than 1% of his estimate.” The barber then asked Moratz to make an alteration to his customers’ shaving mug case and told Moratz that if he fixed that too, he would do Moratz’s barbering for the remainder off the school year; to which Moratz agreed.

Moratz also bartered with a tailor who had a shop in the same building. Moratz agreed to do a little carpenter work and erect a small partition and a hanging door for the tailor. The tailor asked Moratz what the cost would be for this work. Moratz replied that if the tailor would take care of his cleaning, pressing, andmending of clothes for the school year, then he would do the required work. The tailor agreed and Moratz finished the work in just a few hours. Moratz recalled that because of the free haircuts and regular upkeep on his clothes, that he was the “foxiest student enrolled” at the Industrial School.

It is not known exactly how long Moratz attended the Illinois Industrial School, or whether or not he graduated. According to the U.S. School Catalogs for 1765-1935, Moratz is listed as having attended from 1888 to 1889, specializing in architecture. However, according to the alumni records at the University of Illinois Archives, he is listed as an alumnus of the class of 1892. Whichever it may be, however, upon completion of his studies he passed the examination as an architect with outstanding honors. Moratz then returned to Bloomington, continued working with his father Herman at his father’s carpenter shop on South Main Street, and began applying his newly acquired skills as an architect.

In the late 1880s, Moratz took over management of his father’s planing mill on South Main Street and began to devote a great deal of his energy to expand the business. An 1889 advertisement for the shop touted Moratz as being the “manufacturer and designer of Fine Verandah and Builders Supplies” that included counters, shelving, and office furniture. Additionally, Moratz offered his services to create plans and specifications for all kinds of buildings, and remodeling and repair work too. Moratz guaranteed “first class work and prices very low.” This was a very busy time for planing mills and woodworking factories in Bloomington as the demand was high for “locally produced doors, sashes, frames, moldings, and veneers” due to the rising popularity of the Queen Anne architecture style in home design.

While business was booming at Moratz’s mill, he began to design buildings throughout the region. While no complete record exists of all of the buildings Moratz designed, dozens can be attributed to him. In 1892, he designed several homes for prominent local residents. One of these homes he designed for John Van Schoick, a local brick maker. The Richardsonian Chateauesque house was located at 103 West Wood Street. It was built of brick two stories tall with an attic and a curved-hipped roof. The porch roof, on the house’s west side, was constructed as a balcony. On the southwest corner of the house was a projecting bay two-and-one-half stories tall with an elaborate roof featuring a highly decorated finial. The Van Schoick family continued to live in this house until 1974 and it changed hands several times after that. The house stood at this location for almost 100 years. It torn down after the property was rezoned by the City of Bloomington in 1990 for purchase by the Amoco Oil Company in 1991, which erected a gas station.

On December 28, 1893, Moratz married his sweetheart Emma Riebsame, the daughter of German immigrants Christian and Bertha (Trimter) Riebsame. The couple first resided at 105 West Wood Street. In 1896, the couple moved to 108 West Wood Street and resided in a one-and-a-half story Queen Anne style house that Moratz designed. In 1904, the couple moved to another Queen Anne style house Moratz designed at 210 West Wood Street. This house remained the couple’s residence for the rest of their lives. Paul and Emma had two sons; Roland and Armin. The family was also members of the Unitarian Universalist Church, located at 1613 East Emerson Street.

The same year that Moratz designed his family’s home at 108 West Wood Street (1896), he designed a home just a few blocks away at 302 West Wood Street for William Van Schoick, vice president of the Rankin Brick Yard and one-time owner and operator of the Bloomington Pork Packing Company.The two-story Queen Anne style house Moratz designed for Van Schoick included an attic and is constructed of monochromatic bricks. The east side of the house features a pedimented gable that is shingled and features a Palladian window. On the north side of the house, the porch incorporates columns, balusters, and brick skirting. On the southwest side a half-octagonal tower with a tent roof and a finial is found. Windows on the first and second story have brick segmental arches. The first and second stories also have oriel windows. Van Shoick’s own building firm constructed the house. While the building has been modified over the years since the Van Schoick family resided in it, the house remains standing today.

On June 3, 1897, the State of Illinois passed “an act to provide for the licensing of architects and regulating the practice of architecture as a profession,” making Illinois the first state to require architects to have a license. The Architectural Registration Act went into effect on July 1 of that year. Any person who was 21 years of age or older and made a payment of $15 to take the examination was eligible. Additionally, “any person who showed by affidavit to have been engaged in the practice of architecture” by that date, was entitled to a license without examination, “provided that the application was made within six months after passage of the act. Since Moratz had been a practicing architect for several years prior to the passage of this piece of legislation, he was eligible to receive a license without examination. Moratz was approved for a license to practice architecture in the State of Illinois on December 17, 1897 and received his license after paying the required fee of $25.

That same year, Moratz opened a separate office from the planing mill in downtown Bloomington. His new office was located at 101 East Front Street. This move most likely allowed him to focus more attention on his growing architecture business. By 1902 Moratz had moved his office to the fourth floor of the First National Bank Building, located at 121 N. Main Street.

Perhaps some of Moratz’s best known residential architecture that remains standing can be found in White’s Place (known today as White Place), which has been recognized as “one of the city’s first developments with a distinct suburban feel.” The White’s Place neighborhood was the brain child of prominent contractor and builder Samuel White. In November 1897, White decided to try his hand at real estate development by purchasing a 30-acre tract of land that was mostly pasture with a few houses scattered throughout. The land was bordered by Empire Street to the south, Clinton Street (today Clinton Blvd.) to the west, the Illinois Central Railroad to the east (today the Constitution Trail), and Flagg’s pasture (today Emerson Street). White modeled his vision after the new trends of residential developments that were happening in St. Louis, MO and Indianapolis, IN. Neighborhoods in these two cities had three things in common: a single architect for the first houses, deed restrictions, and a distinctive gate to the area. Some of the guidelines White created for potential buyers to follow included: lots being uniform in size (on average 50 feet wide by 160 feet deep); houses were to be placed 15 feet back from the street in an aesthetically pleasing line; and that while the houses did not have to be identical in style, they must be two-stories tall and were to cost no less than $3,000 to $3,500 to build (which in 2015 would cost between $85,000 and $100,000).

Moratz is known to have designed at least two structures in White’s Place. The first was the home of White himself, located at 27 White Place. Moratz designed this Queen Anne style home with Dutch Colonial and Romanesque elements in 1899 at a cost of $4,000 (approximately $114,300 in 2015). Moratz also designed a large set of three elegant wrought iron gates in rock-faced stone that framed the central boulevard of White’s Place. At the top of the gate is the name Whites Place, underneath the crowning date 1898, all in iron lettering. The gate’s design is similar to one designed by Theodore C. Link for St. Louis’ Portland Place (but was built at Westmoreland Place). The drawing, published in 1890, caught the eye of White and Moratz. Moratz’s gate is similar, but was done in rock-faced stone, and has tapered wings. It is unknown if Moratz designed additional houses in the Whites Place neighborhood.

Many of the houses Moratz designed that were built throughout Bloomington (including Samuel White’s home) can be found in the book he published in 1899 called Up-To-Date Homes. On the very first page of the book, Moratz stated that in publishing this book, he intended to “show a number of plans and views of buildings which are inexpensive in construction, and suit the majority of the people who are desirous of making their home a convenient, artistic, and comfortable dwelling.” The plans also used products from Moratz’s own planing mill business. Although the houses were constructed from ready stock plans, built of mass-produced material according to modern standards, “each home was unique. Its façade, shape, the size and decoration of the rooms, offered recognizable signs of the family’s taste, interests, and place in the social world.” Moratz was an architect that worked in a variety of styles to fit the needs and pocketbooks of his clients.

Other houses constructed utilizing the plans from Moratz’s Up-to-Date Homes include: a Queen Anne style house at 518 East Chestnut Street for Phineas and Mattie Stubblefield (1898, plan 105); a Victorian Romanesque house at 807 South Main Street for John and Ada Bertoni (1898, plan 107); a Queen Anne style house at 909 South Center Street for Henry Miller (1895, plan 109); and a Queen Anne Style house at 1107 East Monroe Street for Everett and Christine Oglevee (1898, plan 115).

Moratz also issued a monthly publication called Artistic Homes. This publication included examples of his architectural plans accompanied by photographs of the actual houses that had been built utilizing those plans. Each drawing and photograph was accompanied by a detailed description of the building materials, architectural design elements, amenities such as steam heat, soft water, etc., and an estimated cost associated with the house as shown in that month’s edition. Additionally, the publication included advertisements for local businesses that specialized in home construction, installation of plumbing, hardware stores, and more. Moratz wanted to make sure that potential customers had all of the resources they would need to build a functional and pleasing home.

Moratz also designed a spacious home for Bird and Margaret Van Leer on their five-acre estate located at 1301 South Fell Avenue in Normal, IL. Completed in 1906, the three story, 22-room Edwardian style mansion and grounds were dubbed “Broadview” because of its location at the top of a hill, which afforded a “broad view” of the surrounding country side. A distinctive feature of the home was a porte cochere, or a covered entrance large enough for a horse and buggy to pass through on the north side of the home. Margaret bequeathed the home and estate to the Immanuel Bible Foundation (a non-denominational Christian resource center) upon her death in 1949. She and her husband had conceptualized this organization in the 1920s and she officially founded it in 1944. The foundation continues to manage and care for the house today, and the house is now The Van Leer Academy of Music and Art, which is open to non-profit, church groups, Bible study, or individual quiet time. In 2016, the house and grounds were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Moratz did not limit himself to designing houses alone. He designed a wide variety of buildings including libraries, office buildings, churches, bridges, and more throughout his career. On June 5, 1897, Moratz was awarded the contract to build an addition to Withers Public Library. The contract for $5,020 included incorporating iron girders and a tin roof into the addition.

In 1893, Moratz designed the new St. Patrick’s Church on West Locust Street. Four years later, he designed the rectory (or priest’s residence) on the lot east of the church. The residence is a two-story structure made of pressed brick. It had 11 rooms and all of the rooms are finished in oak with frescoed walls. And in 1902, Moratz was commissioned by the parish again to design a school that was located east of the rectory. The school was a two-story building constructed of pressed bricks with stone trimmings. The first floor contained four classrooms that accommodated 50-60 students each. The second floor was entirely made up of a hall which could seat 500-600 people and had a stage with dressing rooms for private theatrical performances. The church and parochial residence remain today, however, the school closed in 1969 and was torn down.

The year 1902 was a very busy one for Moratz. During the summer, construction began on a new school and convent that Moratz designed for St. Mary’s Catholic parish in Pontiac. The Gothic style building was to be three stories high, with the first story being made of Bedford stone. The remaining two floors were brick finished by a mansard roof. That fall, construction was also completed on the church Moratz designed for St. John’s parish in Fairbury, IL. The Romanesque building was constructed of bright red Danville brick with stone trimmings and a slate roof. The prominent exterior feature of the building was a tall tower, surmounted by a tapering spire. The interior ceiling was made of a single vault running from wall to wall, as opposed to the more traditional three vaults found in other Catholic churches in the area. The interior was finished entirely in oak and with a seating capacity for 350-500 people. A false vaulted dome ceiling made of art glass was also added. The church was completed at a cost of about $15,000 (which in 2015 would be worth about $417,000), and remains standing and in use today.

On Friday, November 22, 1902, Moratz’s design for the new Edwards School (801-810 West Market Street) was selected by the Bloomington Board of Education. Moratz presented a school that would have a classic design, similar to that of another elementary school in the district, Franklin School. The plans Moratz initially proposed called for the building to have a seating capacity for 800, with a maximum of 1,000 if necessary. An auditorium on the third floor would be able to accommodate the entire student body of the school. The building was to be made of light yellow or buff pressed brick with stone trimmings, have a foundation made of Bedford stone, and a slate roof. The main architectural feature of the building would be the classic portico supported by stone pilasters on the Market Street side of the building. The pediment above the columns would be ornamented, and two square turrets would surmount the roof on either side of the portico. The first floor was to contain seven classrooms, with the principal’s office to the right of the entrance, along with a kindergarten room and reception room. Each school room of 25 by 35 feet would also have a small wall cabinet behind the teacher’s desk for books, papers, and stationary. The teacher would have her own closet for personal belongings, and there would be double wardrobes, one for boys and one for girls. Windows would also run the long side of each room. The corridors on the first and second floors would be 19 feet wide and 100 feet long, large enough for all of the students who attend the school to assemble in them. Air shafts for fresh and hot air would be provided in every classroom and the hallways. Hardwood would be used throughout the building, along with the most up-to-date plumbing and other technologies.

In February 1903, Moratz finished the specifications and working plans for the new school. However, the first round of bids was rejected by the school board in June of that year. It was found that if the building was constructed based on Moratz’s existing plans and specifications, it would be cost prohibitive with the price tag being upwards of $55,000 (which in 2015 would be $1.5 million). Some changes were made in the quality of the brick that was to be used in the construction, along with some minor changes to the heating apparatus. This was done with the hope that the next round of bids would be cheaper. A few weeks later, a bid from F.M. Garthwait was accepted. Mr. Garthwait’s bid of $51,421(about $1.4 million in 2015) beat all of the competition and came in under the first round of bids as well. Construction on the school began with excavation for the foundation on July 6. The following week, on July 17, two young girls who lived on West Market Street, Kitty Mahaffey and Maude Kirkman, had the honor of laying the first brick for the foundation of the school. Construction was scheduled to be completed in time for the new school year in September 1904.

Work continued on the school as planned for the rest of the year and into 1904. By March 1904, the Pantagraph reported that the roof was nearing completion and from all appearances, the school “will be one of the finest school buildings in the state.” In April that year, an updated report was published in the Pantagraph with the final costs and total features and amenities the building had. The third floor auditorium continued to take up the entire floor (save for a few storage rooms), but had been scaled back in size slightly, only being able to accommodate between 700 and 800 students, as opposed to the proposed 800 to 1,000 students when Moratz originally created the plans. The plan for seven second floor classrooms remained, however, each room was connected to a double cloak room with a wire screen in the center, separating the boys and girls, making it necessary for them to enter and leave the room via separate doors. The first floor almost mirrored the second, but in addition to the seven classrooms, there was a principal’s recitation room, principal’s office, a private office off the main office, and storage room for school supplies. In addition to the typical equipment for heating and ventilation of the building, the basement also housed domestic science rooms, boys’ and girls’ playrooms, and restrooms.

The school included several new innovations in the overall design, one of which was the heating and ventilation system which the Pantagraph reported was “a most complete contrast imaginable from the old style school building where a red-hot stove or smoky furnace roasted pupils until they all got the headache and then by draft from open windows gave them all the pneumonia.” The new heating system at Edwards School was a combination of fan, furnace, and steam with forced ventilation. The system brought cold and pure air from the outside into the furnace room where it was heated and driven by forced air into every room of the building. Each room had its own thermostat that was automatically regulated to not go above or below a certain temperature. Additionally, a telephone system (like today’s intercom system) was added to the school. This took the place of the old system of call bells and hardly cost more than the old system.

The total cost for the project was about $65,000 (about $1.8 million in 2015). This included the general contract work, heating and ventilation system, plumbing, wiring, furnishing and incidentals, and Moratz’s design services. The school opened as scheduled for the new school year in the fall of 1904 and continued to operate until 1969. The building housed a variety of operations and businesses over the years following the school’s closing, until the building burned down in 1984.

The building that Moratz designed that he was probably the most well known for locally during his life time was the Coliseum. A committee was formed in 1897 “with the avowed intention of securing enough money” from local businessmen to insure the erection of a city coliseum. The structure was constructed in 1898, and located at Front Street and West Street (today Roosevelt Avenue), across the street from today’s Coliseum which is its namesake. The imposing red-brick, stone-trimmed building took up the entire lot with entrances on Front Street and exits on West Street. Moratz incorporated a row of semi-circular iron and wooden trusses to support the tin roof and galleries, with the foundation for the trusses firmly planted on the ground floor. Moratz was quoted to have said that employing this method of support would make this building “the strongest, safest, and most substantial that modern science of construction has to suggest.” Moratz’s design created a cavernous, armory-like hall with a ceiling that was nearly 60 feet tall, and a seating capacity for nearly 5,000 people. The structure was due to be completed in early September. However, necessary changes in the design of the roof and to the stage pushed the completion date back to December. Even then, workmen were busy right up to the opening night with last minute construction, setting up of chairs as they arrived, and hanging the main curtain for the stage.

On December 27, a smaller than hoped for crowd of about 1,200 people was present for the grand opening of the Coliseum. Mayor Christian F. Koch delivered a dedicatory speech at 8:30 p.m. that evening. After his speech about the need for such a building, he introduced the evening’s entertainment, Frederick Phinney’s United States Band. It was the hope of many that the construction of the Coliseum, in combination with Bloomington’s “unexcelled railroad facilities, central location, and first-class hotel accommodations,” would help draw more visitors and businessmen to the area, helping the city to win the title of “Convention City.”

The Daily Bulletin, Bloomington’s afternoon newspaper, reported that those involved with the planning and development of the Coliseum were fortunate to have contracted Moratz’s talent for this project, stating that his “advice was invaluable and his suggestions timely.” The Coliseum was deemed his greatest triumph and “an enduring monument to his talent and skill.”

The Coliseum hosted a wide variety of events throughout its existence. From horse shows, to military bands; traveling minstrels and medicine shows; purebred dog shows and orators; opera singers and automobile shows; there was something for everyone featured at the Coliseum. In 1915 and again in 1916, workmen transformed the Coliseum into a “Corn Palace” by covering the façade with a wooden frame work and completely covering that frame with thousands of ears of corn, baled alfalfa, pumpkins, corn stalks, and Sudan grass. After being purchased and changed into a bowling alley in 1938, the Coliseum fell to the wrecking ball in 1961.

Less than two years after he finished what was deemed his architectural masterpiece, the City of Bloomington called upon Moratz’s services again, this time, however, it was to help the city recover and rebuild from the biggest disaster in its history. On June 19, 1900, 45 buildings and four and a half city blocks were destroyed by fire within eight hours in downtown Bloomington. Moratz, along with fellow Bloomington architects George Miller and Arthur Pillsbury, were called upon to help rebuild the entire downtown area. The three architects developed “harmonious” designs to rebuild a new downtown Bloomington. A classical design was chosen because it was very popular after the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The rebuilding of downtown was finished after only 18 months.

Moratz’s contribution to this endeavor was his design for the Klemm Building, located at 105-107 West Jefferson Street, completed in early 1901. The building was created for C.W. Klemm, a German immigrant and shrewd local businessman who owned and operated a retail and wholesale goods store at the same location since 1873. After his business was destroyed by the downtown fire of 1900, he set up a temporary shop in a building on South Main Street until his new building was completed seven months later. It is not known what other buildings downtown, if any, Moratz designed following the fire.

In addition to the work he did to help rebuild downtown Bloomington, Moratz also designed the plans to build a bridge across the extreme eastern end of the lake (1,000 block of South Summitt Street) at Miller Park. The design for the bridge utilized remains from the 1868 McLean County courthouse that had been destroyed by the 1900 downtown fire. The lake had recently been expanded further east, was in need of a second bridge to extend “the system of drives entirely around the lake.” The bridge that Moratz designed included a cast iron arch that was manufactured by the Union Foundry in Bloomington on the interior. The exterior was to be covered with stone taken from the McLean County courthouse debris. Additionally, Moratz also incorporated columns, which had been salvaged from the old courthouse, into his design as well. The bridge was seen as a welcome addition to the park, adding much beauty utilizing material that had been created out of the wake of such great destruction.

Nationally, Moratz is perhaps the most well known for designing numerous public libraries, many of them Carnegie Libraries, the majority of which are found in Illinois and throughout the Midwest. According to one newspaper source, Moratz designed upwards of 69 libraries during his career. However, only 28 libraries (built between 1897 and 1914), can be confirmed with available resources. Twenty-seven of those libraries are Carnegie Libraries, and three of these libraries are known to have been closed and torn down.

Carnegie Libraries were built across the nation and funded with money donated from Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Between 1886 and 1919, 1,679 library buildings were created using more than $40 million donated by Carnegie. Many of these libraries continue to serve the communities they were built in to this day as libraries, civic centers, or as museums.

Carnegie’s decision to support library construction developed out of his own experience. As a young boy, Carnegie had been exposed to reading and books at the local Tradesmen’s Subscription Library in his home town of Dunfermline, Scotland. After his family moved to the United States when he was 12 years old, Carnegie continued to read and borrow books, thanks to a generous local benefactor who opened his personal library every Saturday to young working boys like Carnegie. Because of his experiences as a young man, Carnegie felt that it was the “right of all working boys to enjoy the pleasures” of a library and reading and that should he ever become wealthy, “he would make similar opportunities available to other poor workers.

After Carnegie accumulated a fortune, he began to use that money to help a variety of philanthropies, in particular the creation of libraries in mainly small communities in rural areas. To obtain a library, town officials had to submit a letter of request to Carnegie’s secretary, James Bertram, who then sent a questionnaire for town officials to answer and send back. Those requesting the funds to build a library had to provide Carnegie and Bertram with information such as if the town ever had a library previously, what the annual tax revenue was for the town, how much annual support the town or municipality could pledge for a library once established, and if there would be a site readily available for construction of a library. Once approved, Carnegie required those communities receiving a library to pledge an amount equal of 10 percent of his gift each year to maintain the library. In Carnegie’s eyes, “a community that was not willing to maintain a library had better not possess it.”

During the first 19 years Carnegie funded library construction, communities were allowed to hire whatever architect they wished to design their buildings, as long as that architect had experience in library design, which is why Mortaz was chosen. The first Carnegie Library Moratz designed was the A. Herr and E.E. Smith Public Library in Loda, Illinois in 1897. In 1903, the library Moratz designed for the town of Pekin, Illinois was completed. The library was funded with $15,000 from Carnegie and $5,000 from residents (which in 2015 would be a total of about $540,000). The design for the library was grand with a stone basement, walls made of yellow tinted pressed brick, and a red tile roof with a dome. This building served the town of Pekin until 1972 when it was torn down and replaced by a new library facility. Closer to home, Moratz designed Carnegie libraries in: Fairbury, IL (Dominy Memorial Library, 1905); El Paso, IL (El Paso Public Library, 1906); Paxton, IL (Paxton Carnegie Library, 1904); and Tuscola, IL (Tuscola Public Library, 1903). Moratz also designed Carnegie libraries for the towns of Adrian, MI (1909); Downs, KS (1905); Russell, KS (1906); Sullivan, IN (1904); Whiting, IN (1906); and Harriman, TN (1908). Two other Carnegie Libraries were designed by one of Moratz’s former employees, A.T. Simmons. Simmons designed libraries for the towns of Chanute, KS (1905), and Delavan, IL (1914).

After 34 years as an architect, Moratz decided to focus his energies almost entirely on his planing mill. Business continued to grow over the years, which required Moratz to look for a new location to build a larger factory. In 1905, Moratz had purchased a large tract of land bounded by McLean, Bell, and Evans Streets and built a new three story structure. He renamed the business the Acme Planing Mill and it was located at 500 East Bell Street. By 1909 it was necessary to expand the factory again so another building for storage and kiln material was constructed. By this time, 60 “experienced wood workers were employed” during the slow times and 80 were employed during the busy season.

However, on March 29, 1925, a fire destroyed the entire plant. A pedestrian on Oakland Avenue noticed the glow of a fire to the south. He reported it to the Bloomington Fire Department thinking it was a bonfire. A single engine company was dispatched to the scene and upon their arrival, realized the fire was at Moratz’s mill, and the firefighters sounded a regular fire alarm. It took the entire Bloomington Fire Department to contain the flames to the mill and lumberyard, and to keep it from spreading to the surrounding neighborhood. The fire started of unknown origins in the dry house, where lumber was piled to dry. According to the Pantagraph, “the nature of the piling, so arranged that the lumber drys [sic] in the shortest time…Each separate board or plank is raised from the other by supporting sticks laid between, giving access to the drying draft every square inch of lumber,” which increases the chance of a fire breaking out. Additionally, with finished oak hard wood flooring stored above the drying room and additional lumber waiting to be worked on stored in the lumber yard, any fire that would break out would spread quickly. The loss of his mill was estimated to have been $120,000 (or about $1.6 million in 2015).

Moratz immediately made plans to rebuild at the same location; however, he shifted the focus of his business to solely the manufacture of a type of ready-to-install hardwood flooring, which had been invented by Moratz himself. Moratz received a patent for this flooring on April 3, 1934. The plans for his new plant included two buildings—“one to be used solely for the manufacture of oak hard wood flooring, an Acme product, and a planing mill in another building.” The plant was to be much larger than the previous one (though only one story in height), and employ even more skilled craftsmen. The buildings were to be made of brick with large windows. Additionally, Moratz stated that the machinery installed in the factory would be the “most modern of its kind.” Soon Moratz’s mill was back up and running. Advertisements found in the pages of the Pantagraph proclaimed that installing flooring made by Moratz would “bring dignity, beauty, and permanent value to your home” within just a few hours, and that his flooring would withstand hard use by children.

Fire struck Moratz’s mill again on November 28, 1931, completely destroying the eastern section of the plant. However, the plant was not completely destroyed thanks in part to an added safety feature Moratz had built into the plant. A fire wall, one-foot-thick, separated the machine room and drying kilns from the finishing room. The chief of the Bloomington Fire Department stated that this added feature was “the deciding factor in saving the west section of the plant.” While the cause was not determined, it was found that the fire began in the drying kilns where hardwood flooring material was artificially seasoned, which was almost exactly the same spot where the fire that destroyed Moratz’s mill in 1925 had broken out. Moratz repaired the damage to his flooring mill and continued to operate it until his death in 1939.

On March 4, 1939, Paul Moratz died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bloomington. He had suffered from a heart ailment for more than a year. His illness had worsened, confining him at home for several days before being taken to the hospital the day before his death. Funeral services were held for him at Beck Memorial Home on March 7, with burial immediately following at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. The legacy Moratz built out of bricks and mortar (through the buildings he created), remains today, as many of his buildings still stand; buildings, that in his mind, would last forever.

How to cite this page
Summers, Candace. “Moratz, Paul.” McLean County Museum of History, 2016, Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.
Summers, C. (2016). Moratz, Paul. McLean County Museum of History,
Summers, Candace. “Moratz, Paul.” McLean County Museum of History. 2016. Retrieved from